I recently read some discussion around the support or otherwise of defunding and essentially eliminating the US’s Department of Justice’s Violence Against Women program. The poster wanted genuine dialogue in an attempt to understand how Trump supporters see their man’s actions and this is to be the first of several questions he intends to ask his followers.
Now, whether or not this particular scheme is actually in the works, I don’t know, I haven’t checked. However the question was still valid as a benchmark of Trump supporter feeling.
One commenter in particular stated that she supported defunding of all kinds of programs, including this one, the gist of her reasoning being that people should be more self-reliant. Not unnaturally, her stance didn’t draw much sympathy. When called on it, she said:
“I feel bad that both men and women are victims of abuse, but they need to help themselves.”
The logical assumption, as with most attitudes of the kind, was that she had no real understanding or first-hand experience of domestic abuse. However, when challenged again, she went on to say:
“I’ve known people in abusive relationships and I studied domestic violence in college. My opinion stands.”
“My suggestion for people in life or death situations is to arm themselves.”
She later also claimed to have grown up in an abusive family and that she basically strong-willed her way out of a bad situation. Since she gave no more details than the generic label of abusive, we don’t know what her actual situation was but what jarred was her lack of empathy, to the extent that she seemed unable – or unwilling – to imagine or accept that not everyone has the capability to draw on an inner well of strength and just cut themselves loose. It made me sad and frustrated at the same time. It boggles my mind that a person can even claim to have studied domestic violence and still hold to such ideas
So, let’s take it from the top.
They need to help themselves
What exactly does she think these programs are for? Any self-respecting program will aim to give the victim the strength, physical and mental, to claim back their lives and independence and move on; to help them discard the feeling that they deserved everything they got, that they were weak or cowardly or shameful, and to help them avoid falling into the same trap again. When a victim of domestic abuse has the courage to reach out for help, that is helping themselves. But the support structure has to be there or they may as well be howling at the moon. Some people will recover better than others. Some not at all. Each one will bear the scars all their lives, because that’s not something you forget, however far away you get from it. But the important thing is that these different people, with their different capabilities, different mental resiliences, different emotional strengths and unique sets of circumstances, have access to the right level of support, short or long term, that they need.
I studied domestic violence in college
If she can point me at a single legitimate study which has concluded that all victims of domestic abuse need to do is pull themselves together and try harder, I’d be very surprised. I can only assume that she wasn’t paying much attention or didn’t really believe much of what she was reading. I’ve never read anywhere (reputable) that anyone can, if they simply put their minds to it, wake up one morning and walk away. Without considering one or more of the following possibilities:
- I have children or other family who are under threat from my abuser if I leave.
- My abuser has said they will kill me if I leave and I believe them. They’ve shown me enough times that they can always find me and have hurt me badly enough that I have no trouble believing they’d kill me.
- I have no money to go anywhere. My abuser controls all the spending in our household and I can’t even get a bus without permission.
- My abuser monitors all my communications. I don’t know how to get help.
- I have no friends of my own. My abuser says I don’t need anyone else, has isolated me from everyone I knew and I’m only allowed to have contact with people they approve of and in situations they’ve ok’d.
- I’m deeply ashamed of where I’ve got to and can’t get past that to speak to others about it. Additionally, my abuser has threatened me/my family/whoever I talk to if I do.
- We’re in love, my abuser wouldn’t do this if they didn’t care about me – they’ve told me so – I must be wrong.
- It’s my fault. No-one will want to help me when I’ve asked for it, when I’ve stayed with it for so long.
- I’m not worth saving. No-one else will have me.
Not a comprehensive list but it will do to be going on with. Also, people who end up in abusive relationships are frequently vulnerable to begin with, for any number of reasons, so why would you assume they’re just being weak?
My suggestion for people in life or death situations is to arm themselves
In a blog post from the Department of Justice on 13th December 2016, Jacquelyne Campbell, Ph.D., R.N., from Johns Hopkins School of Nursing was quoted as saying, during a panel on the intersection of firearms and domestic violence, that “in the United States, when women are murdered, 40 to 50 percent are killed by their husband, boyfriend or ex-partner. That’s nine times the rate killed by strangers. In comparison, 5 to 8 percent of men are killed by their partner.”
Bring a gun into the house and the chances of someone dying bloody skyrocket, no matter who brought it in. Shocking. Leaving aside that even if they can get their hands on one, not everyone has the capacity or proficiency to shoot a firearm, or the means to acquire either, it’s generally only likely to make matters worse. The commenter was then at pains to point out that she hadn’t specified what women should be arming themselves with (though left like that, and in a predominantly Stateside community, she might have guessed how it would be read). She went on to suggest that improvising with household objects should solve the issue. As though a person who’s been cowed and controlled, physically and mentally, just has to pick out a knife from the kitchen drawer to be protected. Violence to solve violence. Perfect. Yeah, no way that can backfire, I’m sure.
And the commenter’s attempt to divert the focus by asking why there was no equivalent program for the protection of men in similar situations is rather undermined by the fact that it’s not relevant to the discussion. If you notice, all of the above has been written in such a way that it could apply to any combination of genders. I don’t know if there is an equivalent program. If there isn’t, I reckon there should be. Either way, it doesn’t mean the Office on Violence Against Women has any less value. Get a grip.
Opinions like hers are one of the reasons support programs are needed. Just because a victim cries out for help, doesn’t guarantee there’ll be a sympathetic ear to hear them; just because they reach out to resist, doesn’t guarantee a firm grasp from those around them. If you hobble the organisations dedicated to the betterment of the human condition, what can you expect, other than the degeneration of the human condition?